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Discussion in 'World Building' started by trentonian7, Sep 26, 2015.

  1. trentonian7

    trentonian7 Troubadour

    I've been working on a few colonies, however, I'm having difficulties. There are already several kingdoms near my colonies; how could a colony ever be founded without the forcible taking of land? Furthermore, how did this work in antiquity? Why would a perfectly habitable land be left alone by it's neighbors? Perhaps they lack the numbers or administrative capabilities? Greece had hundreds of colonies across the Mediterranean yet I've never heard of contests for the land they were trying to build on.
  2. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

    Old "kingdoms" were often very small and only encompassed a tight area of influence. For instance, in Europe there would be multiple kingdoms within an area the size of France or Spain. Ex.:


    Same went for Africa and the Middle East. Particularly the further back in time you go, the smaller the area of influence—generally, although some empires did spring up. Distance from the capital greatly reduced sphere of influence, even for empires.*

    Other factors like numbers, administrative capabilities, and military capabilities also came into play.

    *Edit: I mean, strength of influence, or ability to control what happens.
    Last edited: Sep 26, 2015
    speculativejester likes this.
  3. trentonian7

    trentonian7 Troubadour

    This makes great sense but what existed in those regions prior to the foundation of a colony? Small kingdom and then- uninhibited land? Land inhabited by local villages but no central government? I'm just confused how a colony could be founded when it seems most land has always had some sort of rule.
  4. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

    For the Greeks, colonization happened in multiple ways. Some areas were uninhabited, some had other peoples nearby who were friendly, and some had people living there who would be conquered or driven out. Each location was chosen on the basis of: fertile land, great harborage, and defensibility.

    The fringes of early kingdoms, being distant from the capitals, might include either uninhabited land or scattered villages without much defense and no type of standing army. In fact, even Montaigne, who wrote in the second half of the 16th C. in France, commented in one of his essays that people living in outlying regions of France at that time might not even see officials from the capital in their lifetime, or very rarely. Most military and administrative resources of the king in small kingdoms were focused on areas near the capital, with outlying regions left to manage on their own, particularly in earlier historical periods.
    Last edited: Sep 26, 2015
  5. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    The Greek example is interesting. You are quite correct to suspect there were people already living in many of the places. It's hard to imagine a sweet location like Syracuse or Marseilles being uninhabited before the Greeks set up shop. Trouble is, we don't know who was there before. The colonization happened in a period when we have next to no information.

    We do know more about the Romans, as I am sure you know. Those military colonies were visited upon conquered peoples.

    In the Middle Ages there was quite a bit of pioneering. I don't know that I'd call it colonization, though the expansion into northeast Germany would qualify. There, through the 12thc, the German princes first conquered the Slavic tribes, sent the priests in to do the converting. Then came the locatores, who were basically real estate salesmen. They selected a place for a new settlement and effectively platted it out, then went back to Westphalia and the Netherlands and Holstein and such areas, and sold the land. One of the big attractions was that anyone going into these pioneer communities would have freehold. There was also a German overlord, of course.

    There was also the activity of the Cistercians, who quite deliberately chose uninhabited, even wild, places for their monasteries. So, there are some books on medieval frontiers, from Giles Constable up through Robert L. Burns and Norm Houseley.
  6. X Equestris

    X Equestris Maester

    I've never heard anything about military conflict with the settlement of Greek and Phoenician colonies, but there was definitely conflict with native peoples, and other colonies, later on. The Greek colonies in Italy for example got caught up in conflicts involving the Latins, Etruscans, and Samnites. Meanwhile, Carthage had a complicated relationship with the Numidian kingdoms bordering it.

    Now for reasons why a place might might not be settled. Perhaps the locals have a nomadic lifestyle, like the Scythians. Perhaps it's a difficult to reach location, like an island. Maybe in this scenario the other, closer peoples didn't have the ability to build ships to reach that island. Disease or some other natural disaster wiping out the natives is another possibility. As I recall, Plymoth was built on or near the ruins of a Native American village that had been wiped out by disease.
  7. Actually, there's plenty of examples of people colonizing areas near to them that were considered terra nullius before the colonization. Russia's colonization of Siberia - a remote area inhabited by low tech natives until the Russian colonization and other Northern territories is a good example. These areas were left unclaimed because they aren't very fertile and the climate there is atrocious. Russia only started colonization of these areas in the Renaissance. Until then, they were inhabited by tribes somewhat similar to Native American tribes (more like Mongolians, really). This just goes to show that you don't have to discover new land to make colonization attractive. You just need a new reason. Whether it's for prestige, a new resource or to secure your borders - doesn't really matter. Also colonization is a bit of a vague term. We often associate it with discovering new land, but 'colonization' just entails you build new cities and settlements in an area.
    Last edited: Sep 27, 2015
  8. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Myth Weaver

    Old statement about the colonization of the US (well, more paraphrase than statement)

    'Most of the bold pioneers were either in debt, or one step ahead of somebody with a warrant...or a butterfly net.'

    To those above can be added slaves, brought into North (and South) America in great numbers as laborers, and 'exiles' - people forcibly uprooted and resettled elsewhere by a despot (several examples of this in the bible).

    General rule of thumb is people who are relatively well off where they are at will balk at traveling a great distance to live a more arduous lifestyle. Those that do either have trouble or marching orders.

    And newly arrived colonists tend to view locals - unless clearly superior in some way - as vermin, or at least as inferiors whose views don't count.
  9. Bruce McKnight

    Bruce McKnight Troubadour

    Don't forget resources or luxury goods as a reason for starting a colony. An area may not be desireable or even inhabitable in terms of self sufficiency, but i someone discovers a diamond mine, mystic plants with "medicinal" uses, or a very rare and tasty animal native to the area, a city or kingdom may want to subsidize a colony. Really cold plain? Send lots of firewood caravans. Desert-like conditions? Send lots of water shipments or a wizard with the ability to turn sand to water (or turn orphans to water if you want to get dark). Temperate region with no food source? Get the cabbage wagons going.

    If the colony is really far away, border towns may even spring up between the colony and the patron city. It might just be an inn, stables, and a brothel, probably a wagon repair shop, too (but I'll bet it would charge ridiculous prices). The size would probably depend on the richness of the colony and the demand for supplies. There may be need for military protection.

    All of these things could make for very interesting subplots.
  10. A lot of colonization is comes down to opportune timing. If your world is not already heavily populated, it's completely possible that habitable stretches of land have been left untouched by human civilization.

    Also, the land may just be particularly difficult to access from the region adjacent to it (a common reason why mountains were often the borderlands of ancient states).

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